Why swept and not sweeped? A scientific research on language dynamics

Empirical evidence shows that the rate of irregular usage of English verbs exhibits discontinuity as a function of their frequency: the most frequent verbs tend to be totally irregular. A new scientific research aims to qualitatively understand the origin of this feature, by studying simple agent-based models of language dynamics, where each agent adopts an inflectional state for a verb and may change it upon interaction with other agents.

Published 9 january 2015 on Physical Review E, General three-state model with biased population replacement: Analytical solution and application to language dynamics  is co-authored by ISI Research Leader Vittorio Loreto and ISI Researcher Francesca Tria. In the paper, researchers suggest a three-state model: along with agents adopting a R-state (they use regular form a verb) or a I-state (using irregual form), they introduce a M-state, wherein agents may use either form.

However, agents can change state if they interact with someone in a different state. The researchers proposed several different rules for these interactions and computed analytically how the population evolved over time. The results for the three-state model, although discussed in terms of language dynamics, are widely applicable. A focus article about the paper is available on American Physical Society's web magazine Physics: Why language exceptions remain the rule.

General three-state model with biased population replacement: Analytical solution and application to language dynamics (Physical Review E, 9 january 2005),Francesca Colaiori, Claudio Castellano, Christine F. Cuskley, Vittorio Loreto, Martina Pugliese, and Francesca Tria.